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A Decorator’s Advice on Choosing Kitchen & Bath Countertops

When choosing kitchen and bath countertops, one of the questions clients ask us most often is “What material should we use?” It’s a very good question. If you’ve ever gone countertop shopping, you’ll know there are a ton of options available. Most of our clients gravitate toward the big five—metal, wood, stone, silicate minerals and manufactured materials—but even still, picking the “best” one can be tough. Here are some tips and questions we walk clients through in order to figure out which material is best for their space.

Choosing a countertop: stay true to your aesthetic

The best way to narrow things down is to consider your material and aesthetic preference. People who love natural stone gravitate toward marble and granite. Some people opt for marble because they love the look of marble tiles (subway and mosaic are very popular right now) or they want a slab. Both of these create a dramatic, cohesive look. While there are undeniable romance and beauty to marble that hearkens to the many magnificent applications in Italy, granite is more popular because there are more options for granite finishes, and it tends to be more durable and less expensive.

Quartz countertops fall under the category of engineered stone. Quartz was developed in Italy in the 1960s by combining ground quartz, pigments and resins. It has become very popular here in North America, as well as in Europe because they can be manufactured to look strikingly similar to natural stone—only without natural flaws—and they come in a broad range of colours and compositions.

Consider your day-to-day countertop usage

Cambria Brittanicca Counter top
We absolutely love this Brittanicca countertop by Cambria

It’s important to consider durability and performance (scratch, heat, burn, stain-resistance) when choosing kitchen and bath countertops. For kitchens, we strongly recommend quartz because it’s non-porous, which is ideal for food preparation and does the best job at resisting stains from common culprits like red wine and drink crystals. For bathrooms, marble and quartz are lovely, though you might avoid using them in a children’s bathroom where scratches are more likely; some people opt for quartz because of its greater durability. Be sure to research durability of the brands you are considering, or hire a professional decorator to take care of it for you.

Countertop manufacturing certifications and standards

If the manufacturing process and sourcing are important to you, this will narrow down your options. At ACM Designs we pay particular attention to emissions, so we look for Greenguard certification, which is third-party emissions testing for products and materials. This is one of the reasons we are such strong proponents of Cambria.

Narrowing your options based on price

Price is often the number one deciding factors—particularly if you have a large space and small budget. When it comes to low price, laminate is the least expensive and comes in a multitude of colours and patterns. Combining a second material such as stainless or butcher’s block can be very striking and is a creative way to moderate your countertop budget. This said, we strongly advise that you not rule out entire categories of countertops too early in the process. Once you have your kitchen layout solidified, take your drawings to a dealer to discuss options and prices.

Few other surfaces elevate the look of a room as much as a countertop, which is why many realtors and professional designers consider a good counter top to be a wise investment. Granite, marble and quartz are all beautiful materials, but other materials can be very striking too. Consider the day-to-day use of the countertop, and stay true to your personal preferences in sourcing (local/green), design and style, and you won’t go wrong. If in doubt, work with a professional. This is one of the times when hiring a designer is well worth it.


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